Thursday, February 21, 2008

Chasing dreams or Running from Reality?

There is this girl I know. Your average mid-twenties-Jane from India. She finished her education here, wanted to go to the US to do her masters. Her father, reasonably well off, took a ten odd lakhs loan here in India, and did his bit in order to allow his daughter to chase her American dream, while quietly pegging away at the loan here and putting two more kids through college and the US ( in all likelihood). Recently, the daughter got a job in the US – and one of the first things that she did was to take a whopping bank loan to purchase a brand new BMW. Daddy’s loan – well, was Daddy’s problem.

There is another person I know of, in her thirties, who has gone to the US also to chase another dream of getting a doctorate. This girl also needs the additional help from her family – who have a number of other financial obligations (home loans, ailing parents and children) so they need to juggle,occasionally scrimp and scrounge, so that this girl can complete her Phd.

A third girl eloped and got married to a person who – well didn’t really have a very stable job. Promptly had a baby. And passed the burden of cost of managing her house and the baby onto her sister – who worked crazy hours, stinted on stuff she wanted to do, took loans, in order to give the child a decent enough life.

There are two ways of looking at this (especially the first two instances) – the fact that someone has a DREAM (in capital letters) and will go all out to achieve it – whether it’s the doctorate of the Beamer or the marriage. Single minded focus – the hallmark of greatness they say. That inspite of odds, someone goes ahead and does whatever they have to.

Or we could say its complete self absorption. The fact that you are ruthlessly willing to mortgage someone else’s future in order to well, chase your dream.

All of us are probably born in the former stage - self absorbed – any infant or child, or for that matter a teen is so utterly wrapped in his or her own life, that the interests, ambitions, objectives of someone around one, are irrelevant.

But I think for most, there is a point of inflexion in the life when suddenly one start setting limits to what one can dream depending on the reality one lives in. A time where one realizes that one needs to compromise and barter with oneself, perhaps for the happiness of someone else. A difficult time, a time of renouncing hopes and desires. What can be more painful than realizing that one has to give up on a dream, sometimes even giving up dreaming altogether? It’s imposing a mental shackle on oneself, giving up the freedom to do whatever one wants to do, and enforcing this voluntarily.

But it can also be an uplifting time. A time of emotionally attaining adulthood- that is quite independent of physiological age. And also wisdom– the wisdom to know when it is okay to chase the elusive and fleeting dream, and when you need to stand up bravely to face often daunting, reality.

Some however, don’t seem to ever reach this stage. Like the spoilt child, they think that life ‘owes them’, and like the spoilt child, if life doesn’t give it to them easily, they will grab it from the adjacent child in the playground

One could argue that the people who are taken advantage of should draw the line – the other child fight back so as to say, say this much and no more. But sometimes that is not a feasible alternative – I cannot imagine an Indian father telling his much loved daughter that he will leave her to fight away the loan sharks. Or contemplate a girl living with the guilt of not providing for a baby nephew (who ideally shouldn’t have been her responsibility in the first place).

I so admire these people who are uncomplainingly and smilingly taking on the burdens and responsibilities. I also admire the other affluent people I know who could have very easily got their family to fund their ambitions – but instead, they chose to work nights and work hard to put themselves through post graduation, housing loans and life in general.

I believe that is one of the features of being an Indian – the fact that lots of things are done as a labour of love and when does it become just labour?

I suppose dreams are essential, but perhaps self respect and the dignity of responsibility is more so.


chandni said...

These are realities that make me sad.

There's another angle...when one tries to help, and the other party, rather than being thankful or grateful, goes on demanding completely oblivious to the discomfort they're causing to the helpers.

at least I've seen that happen a lot.
I don't know about the "indianness" of this, but parents shpuld really let "adult" chicldren, take up their responsibility.

Deepa said...

Nice post. I believe that the REAL challenge of parenting today is teaching children values. How to make right choices. Easier said than done.

After reading this post somehow you dont sound like a 'cynic' to me. More a dreamer or an idealist:)

Aqua said...

Awesome post Cynic. we have all come across the variants of the three examples you mentioned in the post. it makes my blood boil. esp those types who continue to live off their parents even after they have become adults and can earn their own living. dipping into their parents's earnings to indulge their luxe dreams. i think in japan they're called 'parasite singles'.

yes, so true..the inflexion point when one truly becomes an adult...mentally!

i guess for some ppl, they bypass that altogether :)

DiTtY said...

Well, I know this woman who in order to impress her fiance, got her mum to dip into her savings and buy her a large chunk of land in Bangalore.

This attitude (and it's so prevalent and that it is scary!) pisses me off no end! How can one let their widowed mother buy them a large piece of real estate?!

Like I said, the more I think about this, the angrier I get!

Am glad you wrote about this...

ctrlalteredmind said...

Hi, first time visitor to your blog here, my compliments on an interesting writeup. thanks!

Firstly, I believe it is spelled "bimmer", although the slang pronunciation implies "beamer".

Secondly, I would guess that there are roughly two types of personalities - one that runs away from reality and displays characteristic mannerisms and behavior as you have illlustrated, and another that might get misconstrued as the first. This second class of people are usually aware of their fiscal responsibilities - but are also keen on utilizing their newfound financial gains to have some "fun" before moving on to bigger issues. You can only have fun driving a sportscar when you're in your 20s, I believe after that you will always be bogged down by other bigger issues that demand mental bandwidth. For the majority of people, there is only a tiny window of life where you are single and have generous cash in-flow. If you don't learn to change your ways past that window, however, you are doomed of course.

Cynic in Wonderland said...

Chandni - true ..when you start taking help for your right. While i agree the parents should let the kids take up responsibility in principle - i think its something much easier said than done?

Deepa - am not so sure its about the value system that parents inculcate in one - in the 2nd and 3rd example you have two sets of siblings which presumably identical values being taught to them who behave in significantly different way.

And about the cynic part ..*shush.. I am probably a closet idealist. But haven’t you heard the saying – ‘if a person is not a idealist before 25 – he has no heart…and if a person is an idealist after 25, he has no brain?’ ..ahem.

Cynic in Wonderland said...

Aqua – thank you – parasite singles sounds like a good name. Though in some cases they continue to be parasites after they are married as well.

Ditty – that is sad for the mother and well, sad for the daughter as well if she is so insecure in her relationship that she needs a plot of land to impress her fiancĂ©.

Cynic in Wonderland said...

Ctrlalteredmind – bimmer is it? Hmmm. That’s a lesson to stick to the non-colloquialisms. Sigh

Secondly – I would have agreed with you about the ‘fun seekers’ – but for the fact that they are depriving people ( in both cases illustrated) of siblings who are more or less the same age. Of course people who are young ought to have fun – but the question is at what cost? At the cost of depriving someone else who might be a year or two older of the right to have fun altogether?

DiTtY said...

By the by, you're tagged AGAIN! :) Gah! No one ever takes on the tags I send their way! :P

vEENs said...

I agree with Chandni also.

And the fact that in a way, parents should discuss and make the kids understand what real responsibility is, they are sure to be taken granted.

But i dnt know how the hell would yu make that girl understand that the kid is her responsibility and not the other one's.

But more than anything, when your efforts and sacrifices are not acknowledged or not given due accolades.. that hurts a lot more.. i guess!


Deepa said...

CiW, just saw your note and comment over at my blog too(thanks for that too!).You are right about the point on siblings -missed that one. Also sometimes parents too behave in an irresponsible manner. Like not planning for future, not making wills, control via ebm or money and such. Then they get too old and forgetful to make any
proper decisions too. Six of one and half a dozen of another I guess.